Archive for the 'Mammals' Category

18
Sep
21

Wild Boar

I have just been reading a facebook page which had a slice of video on it that stated the film was taken in Norfolk and it featured a wild boar.

I have no doubt the person that posted the video did so in good faith. In fact it featured an Iron Age Pig rather than a Wild Boar. Iron Age Pigs are hybrids between Wild Boar any any breed of domesticated pig. They are used by land owners that are rewilding their land. Several farms in Norfolk are now beginning to put land aside for rewilding. They use pigs, usually Tamworths, but a few use Iron Age, alongside Exmoor ponies and Cattle. The turnover of the land by the pigs and the browsing and grazing by the cattle and horses, alongside wild deer, keeps the land from ‘wooding-up’. The bushy, scrubby landscape that ensues is ideal for such species such as Nightingale, Turtle Dove and Warblers like Whitethroat and Blackcap.

There are no Wild Boar at large in Norfolk as far as I’m aware. Although I did investigate a couple of reports about 10 years ago that didn’t come to anything. However, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … anythings possible.

11
Aug
21

Leporids

A few Leporids around on tours the other day.

23
Jul
21

Odds and Sods

A few photos from this spring and summer, taken on tours around the county and country, that I haven’t had time to post previously …

22
Jul
21

Brows and blows

After a busy few months Tania and I wanted to get away for a few days. So we made a plan. First stop Bempton to see the Black-browed Albatross. I’d seen the Sula Sgeir bird a decade or more ago but how could you say no to an Albatross in British waters. You just ‘have’ to go and see it. They are the bees knees of seabirds. A thought not shared by the Gannets who didn’t take to their larger cousin at all. He ousted a few off the cliffs to crash land among them. Tania had great views of the bird as she looked down on the bird circling below her.

First part of the plan completed we thought we’d carry on North and visit Kinghorn. Now this is the second time this year I’ve called at this pretty village just over the Forth from Edinburgh. I paid a visit at the end of May. The idea then was to see if the guests on the UK Mammal Tour could add Sei Whale to their lists. Despite it’s rarity in UK waters there had been one kicking around in the Firth of Forth for a few weeks. Sadly it wasn’t to be as the whale didn’t play ball. However, Tania and I thought it would be worth a revisit this week as the Sei Whale was still being seen with some regularity. It took some time, but eventually the third largest animal on the planet graced us with a ‘swim-past’. In fact two; once going up river and then a second as it returned East. Thanks to Ronnie Mackie for his invaluable help and great company in seeking out this addition to our British mammal list. The last time I saw one of these creatures it was amid the clear waters of a Chilean Fjord on the day Tania and I first met; a long way from a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland.

02
Jun
21

Whale Whispering

Just finished the penultimate day of our UK mammal tour. We went whale whispering to the East of the Isle of Staffa. Managed to call up three separate Minkes feeding in what was obviously a food rich area.

30
May
21

Hares

Some cracking numbers of Hares around the Norfolk fields at the moment. At Kelling the other week we saw around 20 in one field.

17
Apr
21

Bones of contention

I’ve been trying desperately to complete the final part of research for my book: ‘Cetaceans of Norfolk’. I’m now coming to the conclusion of writing up notes into a coherent volume which has taken me the best part of 9 years to complete.

I have been visiting quite a few parts of Norfolk over the last few days, some of which I’d not visited before, to photograph and measure whale bones. Some bones were used as arches some as fenders and others as fence or gateposts. Given whale bones are loaded with oil they last a long time; several hundred years longer than wood when partly buried in the earth. Given this is a resource that is no longer available the county has a decreasing number on show but there are still a few scattered through the county in gardens and farms. They are part of our heritage. I feel they needed to be audited and recorded, so as part of the book there’s a chapter dedicated to whale bones within the county.

I visited one rather remote farm yesterday. On the approach track was a large display of Primroses the like of which I have never seen before. I’d spoken to the lady occupier on the telephone so she was expecting me when I visited. I was quite taken a back as to how derelict the farm looked. The lady was extremely old and her health had obviously suffered of late. However, she was helpful in guiding me through the very overgrown garden to where the bones lay flat among the brambles. I took photographs, measurements, thanked the lady and left.

When I was little we had two farms in the family. I know how much effort is needed to upkeep farm land and farm buildings. It saddened me greatly that such a wonderful lady was living in what could be described as a near dilapidated house and garden. I guess it was the contrast between the beauty of the approach track and the semi derelict farm buildings and garden that took me by surprise. As I sat in the car writing up my notes, I felt quite sad that poor health and circumstance was limiting what the lady could do to upkeep what had obviously been at one time a thriving, living farm. However, I looked up and a face at one of the windows of an outbuilding brought a smile to my face.

04
Feb
21

A walk to the Sea

The sea was full this morning; overflowing at the edges and pushing at the base of the cliffs. No wind so no waves but the swell was well over 2m. I had hoped a cetacean or two may break the surface but only a couple of Grey Seals put in an appearance.

Skylarks gave a backing to the percussion of Great Tits as I arrived at the cliff top. Plenty of Red-throated Divers still and the odd Brent moving West and then presumably back North; even a Great crested Grebe was on the sea evading the attentions of fish stealing gulls. However, there were a few new kids on the block. The Fulmars were back. On the cliffs, on the sea and gliding effortlessly by. Spring is around the corner.

05
Jan
21

Reminiscing

Over the New Year period, being in Tier 4 Norfolk and therefore restricted to home has given me time to think and reminisce.

I have been following the reports of Fin and Humpback Whales around the Isles of Scilly this last week with interest. I would so like to have been there. Sightings of whales were coming in thick and fast. It’s difficult to tell how many of each species were present but on one particular day there appeared to be nine animals around the islands. This is purely speculative on my part of course as some of the sightings may have been double counted and remember I am 400 miles away. In time when records are examined by the more than competent guys on the ground a truer number will be agreed.

The whole event took me back to some occasions in the past when I’ve been surrounded by whales myself. One came to mind. In the bay of Funday 2016 I remember thinking I could have walked out on the Humpbacks that were gathering in the mist around the boat. Later on in the same week a pod of Fin Whales came at the boat. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Each whale around 20 meters long and weighing about 47,000 kg. moving at 20 knots, making a bow wave and coming straight towards where I’m stood on the deck of a 60 foot cruiser one and a half metres above the waterline. There were around ten of them. That’s close to half a million kilograms of flesh coming straight at the boat. You get the picture. As they neared the beam they slipped under the keel and were away. Their wash dragging the boat sideways. A heart stopping moment. Wonderful, wonderful animals.

Some of the Fin Whales in the bay of Fundy – that’s the problem with telephoto lenses … they don’t fit everything in.

Humpbacks in the mist bay of Fundy

31
Dec
20

Goodbye 2020

It’s always difficult to give the best wildlife moment of any year. Usually because there are so many to choose from. 2020 has been made no less easy due to there being less travel and fewer occasions when wildlife has presented itself. A pauper’s choice? Maybe, but we forged a few worthwhile memories.

The year opened with a Black necked Grebe within photographing distance at Holkham. The only one we saw all year. The Eastern Yellow Wagtail continued to present itself on an inland muck pile throughout January and was more photographable for the habituality developed by the proximity to its steady stream of admirers.

Ever since a raw February day in 1991, almost 30 years ago, when I first distantly saw an American Bittern in a ditch on the outskirts of Blackpool, I have dreamed of finding my own. I’d have preferred finding it at Cley or Titchwell but I guess the Everglades will have to do. We watched an individual as it stalked its way through a reedbed in Florida. The best thing about it was it was close. So close we could have touched it. My guests always say to me the best things they see when they are out with me are the birds and animals they see well. They are right.

Many other delights presented themselves in Florida and a small selection of photographs is included here.

As the year went on a few good birds presented themselves in Spring. Perhaps the pick of them was the Blyth’s Reed Warblers splattered about the East coast. We were lucky to have very good views of one in North Walsham.

Heath Fritillary Butterflies and White legged Damselflies to the South in June were a welcome break from local walks here in West Runton.

In July I saw my first comet with a tail. I couldn’t get enough of it. Another wonder of the natural world marked off the bucket list.

Southern Migrant Hawkers in West Norfolk gave me a good opportunity to study the species. We stopped and watched them for a full day. I’m sure they will become more frequent in future but getting so close to them at Thompson Common will live long in the memory.

It took two trips north to see the Lammergeier. I was pleased to see it despite not getting the front row stall seat views others obtained, but that didn’t make it any the less exciting. I hope to see more Bearded Vultures within Spain during 2022.

Silver spotted Skippers and Adonis Blues were on the menu in high summer and as October dawned a Hoopoe gave excellent views, again on an inland muck-pile, in Norfolk. Can you see a trend developing here?

On Scillies this year, as always, it was a treat; but one bird stands out for me as being particularly close and obliging. It’s not rare, but still special to see on this side of the Atlantic. A Pec Sand on Tresco gave itself to us. It has been a few years since I’ve had one that has been so confiding.

A ‘first’ is always memorable and in October, between tours, an Eastern Rufous Bush-Chat made landfall on a muddy saltmarsh a few miles down the road. We watched it along with others as it fed and spread its tail within the suaeda. Much more satisfying however was the Pallas’ Warbler not but a few hundred metres away that picked insects from the underside of sycamore leaves like a miniature trapezist right in front of our faces.

November was all local. A corking Desert Wheatear and a Lesser Yellowlegs that had no fear were both within walking distance of one another. It looks like the opening months of 2021 will also need to be local. However this wont be forever.

I’m looking forward to what 2021 will bring.




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